THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUTH:

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.



Sunday, August 8, 2010

DEAD MEN RIDING

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Movie: 'MONTE WALSH' (1970)
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Starring: Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Jeanne Moreau
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Grade: A
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'MONTE WALSH' is haunting and lyrical; a slow, dark, and melancholy poem on celluloid. It's Henry David Thoreau in a Stetson and down on his luck.

The episodic story revolves around two friends - older cowboys - who are trying to survive in the dying days of the big cattle ranches, as absentee Eastern corporations buy up the Western landscape, altering the only lifestyle that these hard-working, free-spirited men know and can embrace.

While many cowboys are sent packing as ranches are being dismantled or rendered inactive, Monte (Lee Marvin) and Chet (Jack Palance) are trying to remain on horseback doing the work that defines who they are and gives them a sense of accomplishment. But these are dead men riding in the dusk of their times, and what's worse, they know it. The serene pale pink and blue canopy of the fading daylight envelops these men and symbolically illustrates the sundown that lays heavily on their hearts. The truth dogs Chet until in a relaxed moment at the close of a day, he acknowledges what all of the ranch hands know but have avoided admitting. "Nobody gets to be a cowboy forever," he warns his friend. But Monte is incapable of adjusting and he will remain astride this horse called "Honor" even if it takes him into the horizon of a sad and solitary existence.

For Monte and Chet, some solace can be found in retaining their work ethic for the faceless employers and in the relationships that they clumsily but sweetly form with a prostitute and a lonely widow - two women who can understand the pain that these men carry and who can share in their growing sense of isolation.
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The subtle and beautifully rendered relationship between Monte and his "Countess" is easily one of the silver screen's greatest tragic romances. It would have received the critical acclaim it so justly deserves if it had been framed in any environment other than a Western. (Western movies have traditionally been somewhat slighted in the critiques of film writers.)

This is a very special and haunting movie that addresses the loneliness of those who feel distanced from their surroundings - caught up in forces that strip them of relevance in their times. This is NOT an action-packed, rip-roaring, shoot-em-up, and it will disappoint anyone who comes looking for exaggerated Hollywood gun duels. 'MONTE WALSH' is a character study that takes a hard and realistic look at Western men and women who cling to each other for support during the halcyon "hour" of soft, golden light and elongated shadows.

If what I have just written means something to you, then 'MONTE WALSH' will find an honored place in your movie collection; if it doesn't, then I would recommend great but more traditional and/or exciting Western Movies to you (e.g., Red River; Shane; Butch Cassidy, etc.)

There are so many subtle, authentic touches to be discovered in this movie. For instance, in one scene Monte's shirt is ripped, but notice how it shows up later in the form of a bandana around his neck. That's true Western economy!
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'MONTE WALSH' contains more honesty than we are accustomed to finding in Western films, and for this reason, it may seem too sedate for most contemporary viewers. The unique dignity of this film is summed up perfectly when the nearly destitute and futureless Monte is offered a significant amount of money to act like a caricature of himself in a traveling Wild West Show, but he resolutely responds, "I ain't spittin' on my whole life."
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'MONTE WALSH' seems to have an indefinable quality to it that transforms it into a transcendental viewing experience for certain individuals. It's something like Blues music: you either FEEL it or you don't, but words will never quite explain it.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
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8 comments:

  1. I don't guess I've seen this one--at least I don't remember it. But it sounds like a movie that I would like. Especially now that I'm older the story might resonate with me more. Very nicely written review of this film that I am now compelled to check out.

    By the way, I still intend on getting back to the reincarnation series. I'm still playing catch up.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aren't all corporations faceless?

    That's why they're corporations!

    Otherwise, they'd be sole proprietorships or partnerships...

    Never saw this one...will have to check it out.$

    ReplyDelete
  3. LEE ~
    >> Very nicely written review of this film that I am now compelled to check out. <<

    Thanks, buddy.
    But good luck checking it out. It has never been released on DVD (although the much inferior Tom Selleck remake has been), and so it can only be found in the used VHS format. And last I looked, used copies of it were priced way, way too high.

    The day someone finally gets their act together and releases it on DVD, I will immediately buy two copies of it.



    DISCDUDE ~
    >> Aren't all corporations faceless? <<

    Mmmm... Dunno 'bout that, Bro. What about this face and this face and this face and this face and this face?
    :-)

    ~ Stephen
    "As a dog returns to his own vomit,
    so a fool repeats his folly."
    ~ Proverbs 26:11

    ReplyDelete
  4. Four times - FOUR FRIGGIN' TIMES! - I've submitted a response to these comments, and four times - FOUR FRIGGIN' TIMES! - my responses have posted only to disappear a short time later.

    This is the last time - THE LAST FRIGGIN' TIME! - I'm gonna reply to these comments.

    OK. There!
    Reply finished.
    REPLY FRIGGIN' FINISHED!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    ReplyDelete
  5. That's pretty weird because I got the responses all four times.

    I checked Netflix for Monte Walsh and you're right--all I could find was the Tom Selleck version. Guess I'll just have to wait til it shows up somewhere. Maybe it will play on TCM sometime.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
  6. Obviously a plot by the sinister leftist elements that have infiltrated our country.

    ReplyDelete
  7. DOH! I have political enemies?
    :o)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    ReplyDelete
  8. LEE ~
    Ahh, it all becomes clear to me now. The problem was evidently due to this new "Spam" gadget thang that our host has installed on my blog.

    Already I don't like it! Why must everyone always feel compelled to fix what ain't broken?

    The system was suspecting MY OWN COMMENTS, which I was attempting to post here, of being spam. And so, shortly after they posted, they were scrubbed by the system and deposited in my new "Spam Folder".

    Why do I need some comments being sent to a separate "suspects" folder? Now I'm required to remember to check a second "Comments" depository, when the old system worked just fine: I looked at all comments submitted all at once, checked "publish" or "reject", and that was the end of it.

    And why is this new "spam folder" system installed only on THIS blog and not also on my STUFFS blog? (But I suppose I ought not look a gift horse in the mouth, eh?)

    ~ D-FensDogg

    ReplyDelete

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